Movie Review: OVERRIDE (2009)

The action thriller Override is an intense, gripping, well-crafted independent film made all the more impressive when one realizes it was shot for $12,000 (to put things in perspective, most major Hollywood blockbusters have a price tag of well over $100 million).  Tightly scripted and edited, with some strong acting and brisk direction, Override tackles its topics of Islamic extremism, infidelity, depression, loss, acceptance, vengeance and redemption with a straightforward, no-nonsense candor sorely lacking in many of today’s thrillers.  Screenwriter/producer/star Randall Krongard has crafted a convincingly tortured protagonist, surrounded him with a memorable slew of heroes, villains and antiheroes, and set them loose in the prestigious Hamptons of Long Island’s South Fork.  A wild ride ensues.

Override‘s plot itself could have been standard thriller fare: Taylor Braithwaite, a father who lost his daughter to a terrorist’s bomb, wallows in self-induced squalor, addiction and depression while his ex-wife attempts to move on.  A high profile oil kingpin becomes the target of said terrorist, and Taylor becomes entangled in a web of intrigue, deception and bloodshed as the FBI realizes he may be their only hope of preventing the assassination.  What sets Override apart is its characters, none of which are the typical archetypes we’ve become so jaded with in current cinema.  Perhaps the best example of such a character is FBI agent Abie, a Muslim-American who deals with Taylor’s bigotry while remaining the most singularly virtuous character in the film.  In essence, Override takes familiar themes and fleshes them out with a straight-forward thoughtfulness.

During my forthcoming interview with Randall, we discuss the casting process for Override.  Many actors in this film were taken from the pool of non-equity Long Island/NYC locals.  Others came all the way from California.  The resulting variety in experience and training is somewhat obvious, though all involved are able to hold their own.  I was particularly impressed by several actors.  Samrat Chakrabarti stood out immediately as Abie, the afore-mentioned Muslim FBI agent.  His portrayal of a selfless, genuinely good man dealing with prejudice and fear from the citizens he seeks to protect generates sympathy and understanding.  I almost found Abie to be the most relatable character in the film.  Abie is contrasted by Randall Krongard’s Taylor Braithwaite, the main protagonist of Override.  Randall’s portrayal is intense to say the least, and he’s truly up to the challenge of the rollercoaster ride of mental and physical obstacles his character needs to face.  Eileen Shanahan’s portrayal of FBI agent Diana Crowley is unlike many of the “boss” performances we’re so used to.  She’s not pushy or classy or edgy.  Rather, Shanahan infuses Eileen with a world-weary experience and common sense.  As far as villains go, the seedy, oily creepiness of Al Nazemian’s Prince oozes through his performance.  Lines are almost unnecessary for him, for with one look, Nazemian can instill a shudder.  Lastly, Demosthenes Chrysan’s Ibrahim Harazi is a great embodiment of the mastermind Islamic fundamentalist terrorist we’re so used to seeing.  However, there is a strength and bravado to his performance that borders on the Shakespearian, which works very well with his interpretation of the character.

Being an independent film, special effects in Override aren’t exactly present.  Makeup and choreography, however, are really quite excellent and believable.  Cinematography is quite good as well, and I’m thankful that absolutely none of the fight scenes use a “shaky cam.”  Joseph Minasi’s editing contributes greatly to the film’s quick pacing.  I was gripped for the majority of Override‘s length, though there were a couple of spots leading up to the climax that I think could have been trimmed.  Specifically, an exposition scene between Taylor and his ex-wife seemed a bit too lengthy, though it was also critical to the plot.  Otherwise, Override‘s pacing is break-neck at the very least.

Sound and music are, well, quite bad unfortunately.  Override‘s low budget status reveals itself aurally.  In regards to sound effects, my most specific criticism stems from the fight sequences.  Hits are almost always accompanied with a very 1960s Batman-esque whacking sound that definitely doesn’t fit in with the seriousness of Override.  The music isn’t exactly present for several scenes either.  While excellent as they are without music, these scenes would benefit immensely from being scored.  When there actually is music in Override, it’s ambient and atonal.  I’d love to see some full-fledged orchestral fanfare and a distinct theme song instead.

Still, director Robert Frank has overseen the completion of quite an excellent film.  Override is proof that low-budget movies aren’t restricted to pretentious, heady, stuffy affairs that appeal only to wine-sipping grad students.  It’s fun, fast, gripping and highly recommended.  Just try and ignore the sound effects and music.  Easily an 8.5/10, and the score would go up with some aural tinkering.  Necca out.

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